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By the numbers: Football is off to rough start

first_imgUSC has opened the season by going 1-3, its worst start in 15 years, since 2001, ironically the same year that a relatively unknown and unproven Pete Carroll got his shot as a Trojan. Flash forward several years, and USC is in a place it hasn’t been for some time, and not in a good way.Nick Entin | Daily TrojanGetting JuJu involved · Junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s turns upfield after a reception against Utah State. He had just four combined catches against Alabama and Stanford, but caught eight passes last Friday.Just four games into the season, the season is already filled with an air of desperation and hopelessness in which the team must win five of their remaining eight games in order to be comfortably in bowl eligibility.USC is 1-6 in its last seven games against Power-5 opponents, the losses from this season being Friday’s 31-27 meltdown against Utah, the previous week’s 27-10 loss at Stanford and the season opening 52-6 blowout at the hands of Alabama. Additionally, the Trojans lost in the Holiday Bowl last December to Wisconsin, 23-21; lost to Stanford again in the Pac-12 Championship game, 41-22 and lost at Oregon in November, 48-28. The lone victory in the last seven games against Power-5 opponents was a 40-21 victory over UCLA in the Coliseum last November.Since November 14, the Trojans have only won two games: The win over UCLA last season and the single victory this year being a 45-7 trouncing of an inferior Utah State team.Head coach Clay Helton is 1-5 as a full time head coach, and with USC’s recent penchant for short leashes with football coaches, media members and fans alike are beginning to speculate how long USC will ride the Helton wave.The Trojans are currently last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense, averaging just 22.0 points per game. The leader, Arizona State, which USC will face next week, is averaging 48.8 points per game. USC is ninth in both rushing offense and passing offense.USC has not scored a touchdown against a ranked opponent on a pass. The Trojans have only scored four touchdowns against ranked opponents, and all have been on the ground. On the season, USC has 10 total touchdowns, tied for second to last with Oregon State and ahead of only Stanford.Through the offensive struggles, the Trojans have used two different quarterbacks. Redshirt junior Max Browne was named the starter to begin the season and after the offense sputtered through three games, Helton switched over to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold.In his first start (Friday’s game against Utah), Darnold went 18-26 for 253 yards, running for 41 yards and one touchdown. Darnold targeted top wide receiver junior JuJu Smith-Schuster and connected for eight catches totaling 98 yards. Darnold was the spark the offense was looking for, but only to a certain extent.The offense fumbled the ball three times — Darnold fumbled once — which was a contributing factor in time of possession. Utah had possession of the football for 15 more minutes than the Trojans. This directly influenced the ability of the defense to perform because they were constantly on the field.After the loss to Stanford, graduate transfer defensive end Stevie Tu’ikolovatu spoke about the defensive unit’s frustration.“It’s frustrating staying on the field when we know we should be off,” Tu’ikolovatu said.Defensively, USC is still in the lower half with its defense ranking seventh overall. For rush and pass defense, the Trojans are 10th and sixth, respectively. The team is also tied for fewest interceptions this season, with only three.In fact, of all the offensive and defensive team statistics, USC is only in the top half of the conference in pass defense, kickoff returns (3) and punt returns (1). Junior cornerback and return specialist Adoree’ Jackson is directly involved in all three.last_img read more